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3i4                           THE GAY GENIUS

ing", however, suggested more than that. It indicated a serious attempt
to form the "internal pill" of immortality in the lower part of his
abdomen. This was one of the inscriptions in rhyme of which the poet
himself was very proud; but couched in the mystic language of the
secret Taoist art, it would be unintelligible in an English translation
without lengthy footnotes. Briefly, he spoke of absorbing the vital
spirits of food and drink and the essence of herbs and plants which,-
helped by lead and quicksilver, were to nourish the vital principle. It
was to be aided by exposure to the morning sun and bathing in the
moonlight. The pill that he expected to form was the "pill of clean
thinking". He believed the time was just right. In a separate note in
his journal, he remarked that the poet Po Chuyi had also tried to carry
on experiments on the elixir but had failed. Po had built a country
house with a furnace on top.of the Lushan, but the furnace and the
boiler broke down on the day before he received his appointment to
an office. This shows that the quest for the eternal life and for temporal
honours could not be carried on at the same time. One had to make up
one's mind either to live an active life in this world or to escape from
it and become an immortal. Now, Su was convinced he had said good-
bye to temporal honours and he was hopeful of success in the quest for
the eternal life.

Just how seriously he believed in the possibility of forming the pill
of immortality in his abdomen it is not possible to say. He was a keen
observer, and although he always played with such mysteries of the art
as the taking of mercury compounds, he began to see that the basis of
good health consisted in following a few simple rules of common sense.
In a note which he presented to the tubercular Taoist Lu, he said: "The
basis of this art lies in strengthening one's bodily vitality, in achieving
mental stability, and in cultivating peace of mind", plus such advantages
and exercises as the Taoists living on mountain-tops were able to enjoy,
and modern patients are* able to enjqy in a sanatorium, namely, the
drinking of spring water and exposure to the morning sun.

In yet another curious way Cliaoyun was to co-operate in Su's quest
for immortality. From about the beginning of 1095 Su Tungpo began
to sleep alone. "There is no secret to the art of prolonging life," he
wrote to a friend. "If one sleeps alone and controls one's passions, one's
vitality is naturally restored." In another letter to Chang Lei, he said
that he had slept alone for a year and a half, and had felt its good
benefits. He said continence was as difficult as the refusing of meat by
a beginning vegetarian, and recommended the following method: For
instance, when one decided to eat no more meat, one should not make
a resolution never to eat it. He should first try for a three-month period,
which was easier to carry out. At the end of the three months one
could extend it another three months, and so on.